What is the Streetlight Effect?

The “Streetlight Effect” is the phenomenon where people only tend to look where it’s easy to look. For example, if there was a shooting and you’re the investigator looking for spent shell casings, you may tend to look only where the streetlight illuminates the area… and that’s a problem!

You need to look for those shell casings even where it’s hard to find them. Maybe you need to pull a manhole cover up to look down the sewer.

The investigator who only looks where it’s easy to look is going to miss things.

If you are a private detective and you’re only looking online for information, you are missing a ton. Maybe you don’t need that level off detail inn all of your cases. After all, if you’re skip tracing and you find your skip by simply running a few database searches or contacting an information broker, well, good for you! That works. But…

If you’re investigating a crime (for the prosecution or the defense) you really need to do more than computer searches. You need to do real investigative work.

Same goes for Worker’s Compensation cases, cheating hearts (AKA: domestic or infidelity cases) and for many of the harder skip traces that simply stump lesser private investigators.

Don’t be a victim of the streetlight effect!

Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye,
Private Investigator

P.S. – Don’t miss my special report titled… If You Want To Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it on the home page of my blog.

2 thoughts on “What is the Streetlight Effect?

  1. I never heard of the term streetlight effect but I get the point. Methodically processing the scene prevents street-lighting. I do not know if you are aware of what I am going to mention but consider it a golden nugget for the good information you provide. Hope it helps and if you have any questions feel free to let me know.

    A good practice would be to setup a grid with the “blast seat” being at the center of that grid and the furthest possible point involved (i.e. gun shot on side of house wall) being the outermost grid area. The scene’s grid pattern is then broken down in equal parts per quadrant. This helps when documenting any evidence or remarks and associates them with a specific location within the grid pattern, such as standing at point A1 the observer can see XYZ. This helped with processing scenes and whatnot when we had to do battle damage assessments, which is key to proper sensitive site exploitation or otherwise doing counter insurgency.

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